Warp – 2001 – 70 minutes
After the release of last year's retrospective 'Trainer', the Plaid boys return with their fourth full-length album 'Double Figure'. The obscure abstractions of some of their previous work may have varied in style and quality, but here they reach a lush musical plateau on what is their best (and most accessible) album to date. Here, Handley and Turner's bubble-based collaborations are much more buoyant, with plenty of upbeat flourishes. They are still nowhere near commercialism, but this album shirks obscure sounds and lays down soft, soothing beats, particularly on the first few tracks. If the ambiguity of the song titles deters you, let the quality of the songs reel you in.
As an opener, 'Eyen' is the perfect introduction to Plaid. A swirl of understated cadence, it starts off with melodic guitars (yes, guitars!) arranged around subtle keyboards. Even the percussive style is more organic, forsaking the drum-machine standards so prevalent in electronic music. 'Zamimi' is a texture-heavy wave of chimes while 'Silversum' sees them embrace abstract rhythms and frenzied beats, a usual hallmark of this brand of electronica. The duo wear their hip-hop influences on their sleeve in 'Ooh Be Do' and 'Light Rain', which is plain long-shot cinematic. The five 'Tak' songs are collectively brief, but the first two have just enough time to imbue an eerie darkness. They mutate into a lullaby, then a computer-game soundtrack and end with what sounds like Plaid closure: the single 'Squance' is a catchy homage to old-skool keyboard sounds, tinged with electro but updated with new-skool beats and breaks.
'Double Figure' walks a line of accessibility but it doesn't forget where it came from. It holds on to what makes Plaid so interesting to listen to, but doesn't forego progress or baulk at trying new angles. It reaches out to those who flit around the fringes of electronic music undecided about the genre, while still maintaining the integrity of the sound. A memorable chunk of pensive, off-beat infectious rhythms, which in keeping with the album's title, deserves a ten.
Tracklisting: Eyen – Squance – Assault On Precinct Zero – Zamami – Silversum – Ooh Be Do – Light Rain – Tak 1 – New Family – Zala – Twin Home – Tak 2 – Sincetta – Tak 3 – Porn Coconut Co – Tak 4 – Ti Born – Tak 5 – Manyme